Sex differences in salt sensitivity to nitric oxide dependent vasodilation in healthy young adults

John H. Eisenach, Leah R. Gullixson, Susan L. Kost, Michael J. Joyner, Stephen T. Turner, Wayne T. Nicholson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Dietary sodium and blood pressure regulation differs between normotensive men and women, an effect which may involve endothelial production of nitric oxide (NO). Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that differences in the NO component of endothelium-dependent vasodilation between low and high dietary sodium intake depend on sex. For 5 days prior to study, healthy adults consumed a controlled low-sodium diet (10 mmol/day, n = 30, mean age ± SE: 30 ± 1 yr, 16 men) or high-sodium diet (400 mmol/day, n = 36, age 23 ± 1 yr, 13 men). Forearm blood flow (FBF, plethysmography) responses to brachial artery administration of acetylcholine (ACh, 4 μg ·100 ml tissue -1min -1) were measured before and after endothelial NO synthase inhibition with NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA, 50 mg bolus + 1 mg/min infusion). The NO component of endothelium-dependent dilation was calculated as the response to ACh before and after L-NMMA accounting for changes in baseline FBF: [(FBF ACh - FBF baseline) - (FBF ACh L-NMMA - FBF baseline L-NMMA)]. This value was 5.7 ± 1.3 and 2.5 ± 0.8 ml100 ml forearm tissue -1min -1 for the low- and high-sodium diets, respectively (main effect of sodium, P = 0.019). The sodium effect was larger for the men, with values of 7.9 ± 2.0 and 2.2 ± 1.4 for men vs. 3.1 ± 1.3 and 2.7 ± 1.0 ml100 ml forearm tissue -1min -1 for the women (P = 0.034, sex-by-sodium interaction). We conclude that the NO component of endotheliumdependent vasodilation is altered by dietary sodium intake based on sex, suggesting that endothelial NO production is sensitive to dietary sodium in healthy young men but not women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1053
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Acetylcholine
  • Dietary sodium
  • Nitric oxide
  • Vascular endothelial function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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